Friday, October 31, 2008

A Few Random Thoughts

Maybe I should save some of these for NaBloPoMo which starts tomorrow. I know I said I'd call it I-NaBloPoMo but now I've decided to call it IBloPoMo because that's shorter.

I slept twelve hours last night. I could have kept on sleeping but Fay wanted her breakfast.

Pete, Fay and I had been visiting my parents in San Diego (La Jolla to be precise) and we flew back yesterday on a red-eye. Pete and I tried really hard to stay up till 8:30 but we didn't make it. I ran a bath at 7:30 to occupy my time (maybe I was asking for it) and fell asleep in the tub for ten minutes. I only woke up because I had to cough. So I went to bed at 8 instead of 8:30. Now I kind of wish I'd gone to bed at 7:30 like I really wanted to. I was just afraid I'd wake up at 4 AM.

So now we're back and I have to pay the bills and go to the dry cleaner and clean the house and it's so much easier and more fun to web surf. Thinking about fashionable clothes that I don't already own is so much more fun than doing the "dumb things I gotta do" (That quote is from "Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head" by They Might Be Giants)

Since I took Fay to California I left my laptop at home. I have a 17" Mac Power Book and I don't recommend them. It's a perfectly fine computer - it does everything I want it to do. But it weighs a freaking ton and it's bigger than most bags. Inconvenient. I bought it used from my brother and I thought "I do a lot of artwork on my computer. I need as big a screen as I can get." No I don't. I move around a lot more than I make big, fancy computer artwork. Dumbass.

That's my new favorite word: dumbass.

So anyway, traveling without one's laptop is also inconvenient. I recently had a PayPal security breach so I went around changing my passwords here and there in a systemless fashion. As a result I couldn't check Twitter or update this blog since I couldn't remember my new passwords. Not that I had tons of time to do either thing. I also got really behind on my e-mail.

Hope asked how much the socks were from Gorsuch.
They still sell them and the current price is $32.00.

And now this dumbass is going to get on the stick and go do some dumb stuff. Blech. I will have plenty more to say tomorrow and for the rest of IBloPoMo.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If You Don't Laugh You MIght Cry

I've been following the Planet Money blog and podcasts so I can understand what's going on with the money world these days. These folks explain everything so clearly that I actually do understand and can explain to others things like what a Credit Default Swap is and why they are dangerous.

Today they have this ad for Washington Mutual posted on their blog as a novelty. Maybe it's the O'Hara's stout I just drank at Matt Murphy's but I thought it was really funny.

Whatever else Washington Mutual did wrong they sure hired the right advertising agency.

Planet Money Twitters too.

If you're scared and confused and feel blindsided by all of this then you should definitely check them out. Once you understand what's happening as well as anybody can at least it's less confusing. It's still a bit on the scary and unpredictable side. It's also really interesting.

Rich Yeti

Once, back in the early 90's, my mom gave me three pairs of cotton socks which she ordered from the Gorsuch catalog. I still receive the catalog in the mail once or twice a year before Christmas. I always enjoy it because they have some really freaky bizarre stuff in there. I guess you'd call it a high-end ski resort catalog with Alpine undertones. It depicts a lifestyle that I can't relate to at all. But hey, I don't know everything. I just have no interest in wearing my money.

Here are some of my favorite items. By favorite I mean the ones I understand the least.

If you're wearing this out to dinner better not order the soup.

This is a cashmere poncho with paillettes (a.k.a. sequins) and detatchable fox/ostrich collar. It goes for $2,498.00

There's probably some cultural reason for this that I don't understand because I'm not Austrian. It's hard to see in this photo but the stags and piping are pink. The coat alone is $2,250.00

Another rich yeti look:

Coyote jacket with fox collar for $11,500.00

Here's the breakdown on the image at the top of this entry. The coat, by the way, goes for $5,499.00. Ostensibly one is supposed to wear it while skiing.

Mostly I'm amazed that there are people who want to walk around looking like that. Then it occurs to me that they pay outrageous sums of money to go around looking like that.

To be fair there are some very nice looking things in this catalog that I would definitely wear if they weren't so crazy expensive. Everything looks to be very high quality and well made. I still wear the socks my mom gave me and it's been over ten years.

Well to each his/her own I guess.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Am I Done Yet?

The first thing I've had time to do with my nail decals.

They will be used to make more Mayhem, Lust and Greed plates (or something like that) farther down the line.

In Case You Don't Read Comments

Here's what Michaela said about her peony massacre:

"Halloween Gardening Tips from Michaela:

When a peony massacre involves multiple heads, or several individuals, one should clean the axe or hatchet with alcohol to prevent the spread of disease from one head to another head.

If massacring only one head, then the alcohol,(preferably rum), is only necessary for personal consumption.

PS: Carving pumpkins with an axe is a much more interesting and challenging process. I recommend saving the alcohol for the END of the procedure in this case."

See why she's my hero?

The Red Knife

I LOVE a great tool.

Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm a maker. Tools are my best friends.

I was just re-reading my post from last night. I didn't get far before I noticed the red paring knife in the first photo and I started thinking about knives. I love that knife. I got mine on sale from Williams Sonoma. I saw the exact same knives (they come in green and yellow too) at TJMaxx a couple of weeks ago. Go out right now and get some! If you need a good paring knife. I'm not advocating going out and buying willy-nilly. Although I do it myself all the time. And come to think of it, the economy could use a little action. Okay, I advocate buying willy-nilly! I'm a wasteful capitalist sheep!

Blah blah blah... Where was I? Oh yeah, tools!

I LOVE a good knife. They really make cooking a pleasure. I love knives so much that I want to give them to people as gifts. People who don't enjoy cooking or think they don't cook very often tend to skimp on their knives. If they only had a good knife then cooking wouldn't be the pain in the butt that it seems to be to them. Chopping and slicing would be easier, go more quickly, feel more pleasant. Your food's not flopping all over the place under a bendy, dull knife blade. No wonder they think cooking is aggravating! It's very rewarding to use a good tool: it's a nice feeling.

I'm not superstitious but a lot of people are. Some people think that if you give them a knife it means you don't like them. Some people believe that if someone gives you a knife you have to give them something back, like a penny, so that the knife is "paid for" and therefore not a gift. I found that out back when Pete and I were engaged and I'd registered for knives. You never know who is going to believe something like that. That means that if I give a knife to the wrong person it puts a burden on them to find a coin to give me at the last minute. It also makes me feel weird that my gift made them uncomfortable when all I want is for them to enjoy their cooking experience. So I don't give knives, I just recommend them.

I've had several favorite tools over the years and I'm noticing they tend to be made of metal. There's my beloved steel half-round jeweler's file, my stainless steel etching tool/burnisher, my Addi Turbo circular knitting needles that I use for everything I knit (nickel-plated brass) my garden fork and a fine steel modeling tool that has a tiny ball at one end and a slim triangular scraper/stabber blade a the other. Then there's my Cutter Bee scissors. They have small very sharp and very pointy blades. Fantastic for precision scissor cuts. I'm not sure why but I'm not as in love with my X-Acto knife (check out the alarming sounds their web page makes as it loads!) Probably because I don't trust my ability to use it properly. I'm always making mistakes and cutting into things I didn't want to with that one. However it is THE precision cutting blade: nothing else can compare with it's sharpness and accuracy (as long as the person using it is accurate!) I've tried other brands and you might as well just throw your money away. In fact they're disastrous because they just rip whatever you're trying to cut so carefully. That's much worse than accidentally slicing into an edge of something.

Most people (including me) don't consider metal a "friendly" material but when I think about my favorite tools I really do love them. Even my nail scissors which my grandmother gave me when I was probably ten years old. Funny to think that pointy metal objects give me that warm , fuzzy feeling. Clearly I need a new blog label: tools.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Bit Of Catch Up

I've been a bad blogger. One post (besides this) for the month of October. I don't know what to tell you. Maybe I'll make up for it next month with NaBloPoMo, or as I'll be referring to it, I-NaBlaPoMo. Really, it is international. Unless they're referring to "Blogger Nation" which would be ridiculous.

I've been doing a lot of cooking this month. Lot's of recipes from Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking. Behold, for example, the lurid pile below which I produced this evening:

This is a simple, traditional Japanese potato salad. I thought I'd bought red potatoes at the farm stand but in fact they are pink. Throughout. I think the pink gives my potato salad a certain Hello Kitty-ish air. Serendipity! This is the second batch I've made.

My favorite recipe from the book so far is Eggplant "Dengaku" Style. I also like the Tsukemono (Japanese Pickles) recipe which ends up being like a really tasty salad that will keep for a few days. What's not to love about a salad you make once and eat three or four times?

Speaking of salad, here's tonight's dinner:

Mixed greens, cucumber, raw golden beets, feta cheese, pecans and dried cherries. I don't know if eating a whole raw beet by oneself is allowed. If I have any problems with it I'll let you know.

Earlier today I also tried to make Kabocha Nimono from Let's Cook Japanese Food, by Amy kaneko. I'm not sure the item I cooked was a kabocha, a.k.a. Japanese pumpkin. I've never actually seen one that I know of. I bought a giant chunk of orange-fleshed, green-and-yellow-speckle-skinned pumpkin-like vegetable at the Super 88 market in Allston last week. It might have been kabocha. The dish didn't come out exactly as described but it's fine. It's not especially photogenic so just imagine rectangular orange chunks. That's about what it looks like. I've really got to work on my food styling.

Below is a photo of what happened to the last of the pears:

This is the Brown Sugar Pear Cake from Dorrie Greenspan's Baking, From My Home To Yours. This was another example of how things take longer to cook for me than they do in the book. While the cake looks well browned on the outside it could have cooked longer. I even tested it as directed with a long bamboo skewer poked to exactly half the depth of the pan and it came out clean. It wouldn't have if I'd poked it to a three-quarter depth. Think of that the next time you make a bundt cake. It's a very good cake though. You can really taste the brown sugar and the flavor goes well with the pear flavor.

That's not my kitchen by the way. That's the kitchen at my parents' beach house. Just if you care. And why would you?

Whoa, I've also been gardening my heinus off (that was a "Your Highness" pun - see, I'm clever and not very annoying) I ordered seven peonies and thirty-six lily bulbs this spring when I must have been smoking crack. It took me three days but I got most of them into the ground in locations I think they'll like. Never mind that I had a plague of lily leaf beetles this year. Well, really I do mind a lot. Along the way I learned that even when you have to make a really small hole (like for a bulb) it's much easier to use a full sized shovel rather than a trowel. A shovel can make a perfectly good, deep but thin slit in the ground between plants. It doesn't have to dig a trench.

Later in the week Michaela came by to help me with the garden's master plan, plotting which shrubs to buy and put in next and where they should go. While we were wandering around the jungle that was a vegetable garden about ten years ago (before I lived here) we stumbled on two more peonies. Michaela decided we should dig up, divide and move them. Well she dug them up and I was so glad it wasn't me that I told her so. One was normal sized and easy to split into three new baby peonies. The other was a mass of intertwined sweet potato-like roots bigger than a basketball. She said, "do you have a hatchet?" We need to go buy a hatchet but we do have an axe.

She was giving me all these directions like "Soak the root ball to remove the dirt until you can see where you want to make the divisions" and "when you divide the root ball make sure you wipe the blade with alcohol before each cut" and "don't worry if you lose a bud or two." She could tell I was getting scared about doing it myself. I gave her the axe and asked her to show me.

Then she took the axe and started CHOPPING AT THE THING like it was her ex's (or a certain politician's) HEAD! Now I was really scared. That's not peaceful, cool-headed "dividing," that's a massacre! And what happened to the alcohol? When she was done there were seven more viable baby peonies. She axe murdered that peony into a grand total of TEN MORE PEONIES that I had to find a place for! And then she left. She'd done the hard part after all. I gave her nine lily bulbs to take along. They'll be happier with her anyway. I don't think she has lily leaf beetles. She's my hero.

Somehow or other I found decent places to plant the ten new peonies (plus an armload of rooty things that might someday become peonies) by sunset the next day. With luck I'll have fifteen new peonies next spring (counting two divisions as old plants) Good thing I like peonies. They have beautiful foliage in the fall.

And now I will end with two photos of Fay that Pete took.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Interesting Times - We've Got 'Em


I don't even know what to write. I don't have organization skills. How can I express myself coherently?

I CAN'T!!!!!!

My favorite: excessive use of exclamation points!

I heard some dude on the radio say that the entire U.S. financial system is breaking down. I wonder if this is sort of what a tsunami looks like? I don't want to belittle the experiences of people who have lived through (or not) a tsunami. I'm just wondering if this is figuratively similar. It starts out kinda weird and you don't really know what's happening. The big wave comes from far away and you can see it but not understand what it is. Then before you know it you're engulfed in calamity and it's faster, stronger and more overwhelming than you could ever have imagined.

I think I may be in the "see the big wave" part. Where the hell is the high ground and how do we get there?

In Sierra Leone a woman's chance of dying in childbirth is 1 in 8.

At the same time the world is full of amazing things.

This article on tracking elephants with text messaging is pretty amazing.

Then there's amigurumi.

And I just found this incredible site full of wonderful things, Print & Pattern.

Then there's cupcakes. I know there's a major cupcake backlash going on but holy cow. How can you argue with this?

And of course the whole bento thing.

As it says above, I make things. How can a person possibly decide what to make? I'm really stymied right now because there are so many things to make and so many things to learn and I can't organize my experience in a way that makes moving forward meaningful.

Maybe there's just no meaning, no forward and it doesn't matter what I do next so I should just do anything. That's what I've always done in the past. No meaning, no path, no destination.

And we should all just do what we do. I'm going to try not to hurt anyone while I'm about it.

All my life I've idly wondered what it was like for people in other times. What was it like to be Roman during the fall of Rome? What was it like to live in the Dark Ages? World War I? What was it like to be German during the rise of Hitler? Times of chaos when the world (or one's country) seemed to be going entirely the wrong way.

Maybe I'm going to find out. How much chaos are we in for exactly?

How about ecology? Are we going to retract in fear and use up all our resources because we're too scared to take the apparent risk of trying new ways? Panicked people behave stupidly sometimes. Use up all your resources and you will die. Do we have the sense to take painful short term hits so that we can survive into the future?

Beats the crap out of me.

So now what do I do? Do I go to the local farm stand and buy some more eggplant so I can make some more Japanese eggplant with miso topping? Do I just go out and put in more lily bulbs and peonies? Make more fuck plates? Design myself an agedashi dofu amigurumi?

What the hell?